This is the first in our blog series highlighting industry companies and individuals who are doing their part to improve processes across the Energy Efficiency and Solar Industries.
At a Glance
Processes they improve: PV System Design, Energy Production Forecasting, Financial Analysis
How it saves money: Decreased site visits during proposal phase, fewer errors during design, more accurate proposals
It’s said that necessity is the mother of invention, but frustration often provides equally fertile ground for innovation. Aurora Solar’s two founders, Samuel Adeyemo and Christopher Hopper joined forces while still in graduate school with a noble goal: to bring a commercial solar system to a school in East Africa. In the process, their dissatisfaction with the available design tools shaped an entirely new destiny.
With over 1.8 million solar installation designs logged and a recent $20 million investment during their Series A, Aurora Solar is the design software of choice for many leading installers including Blue Raven Solar, Black & Veatch, Momentum Solar and SunPower. A big contributor to their success was the willingness to dig into an area of tremendous wasted labor, and try to design a solution to solve it.
Reducing Proposal and Design Waste
Traditionally, solar proposals have required site visits to survey, take measurements, and examine obstacles that have the chance to reduce a PV panel’s effectiveness due to shading. The physical survey process is error prone and expensive, yet many smaller installers still are still using on-site surveys as the first step in a solar proposal. The result, says Aurora’s Gwendolyn Brown, is often that installers will simply not propose systems to many leads because the whole process just takes too long.
Aurora’s services for proposal, system design, and ROI calculation make use of the latest developments in technology, from satellite imagery to LIDAR. From there, a 3D model is generated, obstructions like trees and chimneys are added, and measurements are taken using one of their various tools, like triangulation using several different images. Add to that a database of local incentives and automatic warnings if designs conflict with local regulations, and the result is a streamlined design and proposal process that frees up solar installers to do what they get paid to do: install solar.
“We had a client who signed up with Aurora who cut the timing of his quotes, basically from a week to a few hours,” says Brown. “He was having to qualify people extensively before quoting. Now he can quickly and efficiently generate dozens of quotes in the same amount of time, providing him with a much bigger deal pipeline and ultimately, more sales.”
While Aurora Solar has racked up some big name clients, they also offer a lot for the smaller, private installers across the country. “While the big players can afford custom tools, we’re trying to serve customers of all sizes. For the mom and pop shops who have only a handful of employees, improved processes can make a huge difference in the viability of their business.”
Continuous Improvement in System Design and Proposals
Aurora’s original tools won them a lot of business, but a careful study of industry practice inefficiencies is the key to their continued success. From a focus on continuously improving energy production forecasting accuracy to “Autodesigner,” a simulation engine that iterates through thousands of potential designs to make optimal recommendations to a system designer, Aurora Solar has created a culture of quality that has led to their continued success.
Improved Quality for an Improved World
For a technology company in the solar space, backing off and relying on the innovations that provided initial success definitely aren’t enough. Aurora Solar’s continued success depends on a commitment to continuously improving the tools and practices solar installers use when proposing and designing solar systems across residential and solar markets. By continuing to identify some of solar’s biggest pain points, they continue to drive success for themselves, their clients, and the industry at large.
“A big takeaway at Aurora is: If we’re going to deploy solar at the pace it needs to be deployed to slow down climate change, then we’re going to need to be do it at a much larger scale than we’re seeing today.” says Gwen. “Solar installers are a vital component of that growth, and we as an industry have to think about the ways we can put efficient processes in their hands to enable that growth.”
Kit has spent the last three years as a cleantech marketing executive after transitioning from over ten years experience in media and marketing for Fortune 500 companies. He brings a passionate interest in user stories to his role as marketing and projects lead at Sustainabilist.